New Metaphors

Kendra Barber
8 min readMar 9, 2021

So this week we were tasked with brainstorming and coming up with a new version of a product or service we feel strongly about, so I decided to go with a “one stop shop” for group traveling; mainly focusing on Airbnb, with a mashup of Grubhub + Pinterest???? Like a group travel delivery service?? Or something along those lines… For the last few weeks, myself and a group of friends are planning a trip to Tulum, Mexico in June (Covid safe, of course.) This is the first big trip that I’ve ever taken, and first one I’ve ever done with a big group of friends, so all of this planning and research is very new to me. But over the past couple weeks of trying to organize this trip with everyone, I’ve come to realize a few things:

  1. A lot of people that are around my age, are opting out of staying in hotels and choosing to stay in Airbnb’s instead.
  2. Trying to book flights with 9 people that live in different parts of Virginia is a bit of a hassle.
  3. None of us have ever been here before, so figuring out what we’re actually going to do once we get there is starting to stress everyone out.
  4. Keeping track of all the links, images, and ideas that people send to our group chat is hard to keep together and organize.

So a question came to mind: What if we could simplify this, and not only provide a platform to handle your main travel needs, but also turn it into some kind of group collab? Combining everything into one place would allow for collaboration in one specific medium that not only everyone can add to, but book everything they needed as well. There are apps like Expedia and Trip Advisor that already kind of do that, but they only offer options for hotels, and don’t have any group collaboration aspects either. But like I mentioned above, a lot of the younger generation aren’t really staying in hotels anymore, so they don’t really have a package to choose from when they go to reserve their Airbnb. And aside from using a separate platform for a group collab (think of something like Google Docs or Mural), there are no travel apps that currently do that. I decided that I wanted to expand on the ideas of multiple apps, and create a platform that would allow for booking of your stay, transportation, and excursions all in one cohesive, collaborative experience. But making it as easy as ordering takeout. Here’s how it went:

Brainstorming:

To start off brainstorming, I needed to figure out why I wanted to create this. As of right now, Airbnb offers an “Adventures“ and “Experiences” section that allows you to book excursions at your desired location. But after looking at the options, I realized that:

  1. The options can be pretty expensive
  2. A lot of the experiences were already completely booked months in advance (I was using my trip in June to Tulum as the search criteria)
  3. This feature is somewhat hidden in the app; none of my friends even knew about it
  4. Most of them are only for very small groups, about max 4–5 people
  5. They’re only Airbnb sponsored events

The app also doesn’t allow you to book any kind of transportation either. So I started researching and writing out qualities and drawbacks of different travel companies that offered the services that I was looking for (stay, transportation, excursions) using a kind of “mind map” to help get my thoughts out:

I then looked into the features of some other apps to pull more ideas for travel, collaboration, and organization platforms:

AirBNB:

Expedia:

Trip Advisor:

Pinterest:

Slack:

From there, I used the SCAMPER Method to answer some more questions that would help me get a better understanding of logistics, and if this would even be a good idea:

  1. Substitute: Can you use this product somewhere else, or as a substitute for something else? The idea behind this product is to be able to use this one application in place of multiple other ones to make the group travel planning experience a little bit easier.
  2. Combine: What would happen if you combine this product with another, to create something new? That’s the whole premise of the idea; to take other products/services, and combine them as one to make a brand new application.
  3. Adapt: What else is the product like? This product/service is similar to other travel booking apps like Trip Advisor and Expedia, but with its own twist.
  4. Modify: What element of this product could you strengthen to create something new? Another feature I was considering was adding some kind of group collaboration aspect that would allow for multiple to be able to add, chat, and organize their ideas with the rest of the group so everything is one place.
  5. Put to Another Use: Can you use this product somewhere else? I think the idea of combining multiple products or services into one application could be used across many different ideas and disciplines.
  6. Eliminate: How could you streamline or simplify this product? By not adding in too many unnecessary features; it would start to get too confusing and there would be too much going on *cough cough* TripAdvisor
  7. Reverse: How could you reorganize this product? I could create broader categories for options, with possible sub categories so people don’t get overwhelmed with 20 different hotel categories right on the main page *cough cough* again TripAdvisor…

Prototyping:

After laying out all of my ideas and narrowing some down, I needed to start putting those words into a visual form. When it comes to designing anything related to user experience and interfaces, especially when it comes to applications, there needs to be some kind of visual layout that represents how a user is going to move through the space. Something like a flowchart that makes it easy to see what’s going to happen next:

After that, starts the sketching of what the actual product is going to look like. Since I was building off of a combination of apps that were already established, it was much easier to expand on what they had, as far as separation of topics goes. But I needed to come up with plans of what I wanted this new extension to look like. Coming up with each individual screen for an application is a feat within itself, so I wanted to focus on the main areas the users would be interacting with, more specifically what the group collaboration aspect would look like.

Starting Page (Top) Home Page (Left) Stays (Right)

Starting Page: Users will go to the “Trips” tab on the Airbnb app, click the “Plan Your Trip” feature, and it will take them into a new tab to start their group trip planning. They first choose their location, dates, and then have the option to add in other members of their group.

Home Page: After trip selections are made and submitted, users will be navigated to a Home Page that will allow them to choose different options for their trip: Excursions, Housing, and Flights. Here, they will also have a search option, settings, and the group collaboration section.

“Stays” Page: Users can scroll and check out the available Airbnb’s for their selected dates, and choose one that best fits their needs.

Excursion Search (Left) Chat Messages (Right)
Folders inside of group itinerary

Users can browse and search popular tourist attractions or excursions available during their selected dates. I decided to go with a Pinterest like feel. Users will be able to create folders, and essentially “pin” their favorite excursions, places to stay, flights, and other links that they found into their group trip itinerary. They will also be able to chat in a group message, and send each other pins and other ideas and links that can be saved for their trip.

Reflection:

Overall, I had such a fun time researching and coming up with new ideas for this assignment, especially since this is a current problem that I have recently run into. UX/UI and mobile application development is where I plan on taking my career, so this was something I already enjoy doing. And I definitely plan to expand on this assignment, dig a lot deeper, and turn this into a personal project of mine to create an entirely new app; creating actual wireframes, mockups & renderings, and interaction animation will be the next phases.

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Kendra Barber

graphic designer @ a fin tech startup, grad student @ nyu, aspiring uxe